If you read George Orwell’s 1984 in high school, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World in college, and/or Dave Eggers’s The Circle sometime after, you’re likely reluctant to wholeheartedly embrace monumental technological shifts in the Western world. You’ve seen the horizon, and it ultimately appears doomed, from the accidental handover of The Singularity in The Matrix to the violent taking of The Singularity in The Terminator franchise.
Regardless, we’ve given ourselves enough warning signs, and yet the fabled warnings dating back to Rod Serling and farther back to H.G. Wells don’t necessarily slow us down—and it’s because, you guys, come on, tech is rad. You didn’t just forget about all the cool tech that comes with the non-dystopian angles of the future, right? I mean, honestly, none of you want to see humanity live wild in the brightly colored silliness of The Fifth Element?
Right now, the picture you see above is dividing the Internet on what a tech future means. Some see us straying into “disturbingly Orwellian” territory very soon and some of us—such as yours truly—envision us taking the worst-case scenarios of sloth, from WALL-E to Surrogates, and instead doing right by our species. I believe in us, and I don’t see “being on your phone” as an inherently bad thing. In the last decade or two friendship has stopped being limited to proximity, and the world over is no longer left to newspapers and history books. Now, throw in virtual reality, and we’re really ready to kick this lifetime up a notch.
From what VR I’ve tried out—everything from a cartoonish orgy to flying above New Zealand to exploring scenes from Miyazaki flicks—virtual reality gives me hope that we’re moving toward adding fun activities, not depleting actual experience. And it seems like Mark Zuckerberg, the surprise speaker at Samsung’s Mobile World Congress over the weekend, anticipates the same thing.
“Pretty soon, we’re going to live in a world where everyone has the power to share and experience whole scenes as if you’re just there, right there in person. Imagine being able to sit in front of a campfire and hang out with friends anytime you want. Or being able to watch a movie in a private theater with your friends anytime you want. Imagine holding a group meeting or event anywhere in the world that you want. All these things are going to be possible. And that’s why Facebook is investing so much early on in virtual reality. So we can hope to deliver these types of social experiences.”
It’s that kind of bright-eyed belief in the upgraded human experience that drove Facebook to drop $2 billion in 2014 to buy Oculus. Zuckerberg sees millions of people trying out the Samsung Gear VR this year (as New York University researcher Ken Perlin did). Meanwhile, the consumer version of HTC Vive comes our way at the end of the month, and LG is working on its own VR headset to work with its new phone. In short, Zuckerberg promises “virtual reality can become the most social platform.”
So I hope you’re all ready to attend concerts you couldn’t otherwise afford, visit faraway lands instead of snoozing in front of the TV at night, explore the glorious mystery of outer space rather than scrolling through Snapchat, and dive deep into whatever the hell erotica awaits us all in the digital landscape of the coming future. I, for one, am stoked.